Bladder Catchfly, Mountain Anemone & Sea Stock Flower – c.1830s watercolour

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An original c.1830s watercolour painting Bladder Catchfly, Mountain Anemone & Sea Stock Flower.

A very fine botanical watercolour dating from around the 1830s. This painting is particularly fine, with vivid colouring and high detail. At the same time, the picture is sensitively painted, with an understated elegance. The painting is inscribed with botanical notes on the verso, giving the common and Latin names of the flowers, and interestingly, the emblematic meaning of the anemone: 'Emblem of Sickness', along with a quotation from Laurence Eusden.

With gum arabic to intensify the colour. On Whatman 1934 wove paper.

All artworks come with a Certificate of Authenticity and—if it is a collection artwork—its accompanying collection text or artist biography.


Signed: No.

Inscribed: Inscribed verso.

Height: 22.6cm (8.9″) Width: 18.6cm (7.3″)

Condition: Some age toning as shown, particularly around the periphery of the sheet, and a small stain to the lower left corner. The picture may have other minor imperfections such as slight marks, foxing, creasing or pinholes, commensurate with age. Please see photos for detail.

Presented: Unframed.

This painting is one of an exquisite collection of botanical works that we have for sale depicting British 'field flowers'. The pictures speak of the importance of wild meadows as a feature in the English landscape, and inscriptions on some of them indicate that the paintings are the product of direct observation of found specimens. More than just field studies, however, the pictures also feature poetic quotations, which show an appreciation of the Romantic, literary connections of such flowers: 'I love all wild flowers (none are weeds with me)’ wrote 19th-century poet and naturalist John Clare. The paintings also evidence an interest in floriography, the so-called 'language of flowers', many inscribed with the emblematic meaning of the flower, such as 'Cowslip, Emblem of Pensiveness' or 'Viola, Emblem of Modesty'. The artist references Henry Phillips's book 'Floral Emblems', published in 1825, which established a framework for the language of flowers in English for the first time.

The field of floriography was to reach its peak in Victorian England, when numerous 'flower dictionaries' were published and almost every middle-class Victorian family would possess one. The 'science of sweet things' as it was named by John Ingram, author of Flora Symbolic (1869), provided a secretive language through which to convey meaning in a society averse to open expression of feeling and ruled by etiquette. Our connection with flowers and their poetic meaning is, however, ancient and universal: as Ingram writes, 'It has been said that the language of flowers is as old as the days of Adam, and that the antiquity of floral emblems dates from the first throbbing of love in the human breast.'

The artist of these paintings is unknown, but a name accompanying the collection is C.R. Hills of Clay Hill Lodge, Epsom and the paper is in places watermarked 1834.

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